A slim volume graced by lively observations.



A British biographer offers salient glimpses of Israeli life and culture.

For two weeks in May 1978, Fraser (My History: A Memoir of Growing Up, 2015, etc.) and playwright Harold Pinter (her future husband) visited Israel, each for the first time. Pinter, a Jew, felt afraid that he would “dislike the place, the people.” But he was pleased by both, as was Fraser, raised a Catholic, who prepared for the trip by reading biographies of major Israeli figures. Both were well-known, with connections that afforded them privileged experiences. They stayed at an artists’ colony, making frequent trips to biblical and historical sites, often in the company of prominent writers, and they socialized with the cream of Israeli society: playwrights, actors, journalists, and politicians, such as Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem. They also connected with Pinter’s cousin, living on a kibbutz, whom he had not seen for 30 years, and visited Shimon Peres and his wife in their apartment. At the Armenian Patriarchate, they ran into Jacqueline Kennedy, “sweet as ever.” One evening they met Anthony Lewis, finishing up a tour of the Middle East for the New York Times; Lewis characterized Israelis as irritating, unable to see how others see them. “They won’t even listen,” he said. Fraser agreed that Israelis are insular but still found them “just wonderful,” even while noting her discomfort with Jews’ “us and them” attitude toward Arabs. Arab culture, Israelis believe, “prevents assimilation.” Fraser’s astute descriptions of people, ambience, architecture, and climate (she complains frequently of the oppressive heat) include Pinter himself. He could be a bit prickly, although easily soothed by an offering of beer or Scotch. The trip was revelatory for him: “I definitely am Jewish,” he announced to Fraser. “I know that now. But of course that makes it more complicated. I am also English.” Fraser responded that she could live in Israel “in every way except one, and that’s not being Jewish.”

A slim volume graced by lively observations.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78607-153-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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